Mr. Obama, your legacy is secure

The recent reluctance of the US to veto UN resolution 2234, which essentially singles out Israeli construction as the main obstacle to a two state solution has been seen by some as the final nail in the coffin in a combative relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu that has endured throughout both terms of the Obama presidency.

While this may be obvious, I doubt it will silence those who are still convinced Obama is a strong, reliable friend to Israel. Indeed, in his post UN resolution justification speech at the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry said “no American administration has done more for the security of Israel than Barack Obama.”

Such self-promoting observations make convincing sound bites, regardless of their accuracy. However, since the door is about to close permanently on the Obama administration, it might be worthwhile to check Kerry’s comment against the facts.

A stroll down memory lane of the Obama tenure recalls the following:

Right out the starting gate his first phone call to a foreign leader in January, 2009 was to Mahmould Abbas, letting him know he was the first foreign leader he called as President of the United States.

In June 2009 his first foreign speech was delivered in Cairo where he signaled a new era in US-Muslim relations. He made the following comments during the speech:

“the United States does not accept the continued legitimacy of Israeli settlements.”

“they (Palestinians) endure daily humiliation, large and small, that come with occupation.”

He signaled a new approach toward Iran (the world’s biggest sponsor of terrorism) by letting Israel know their flexibility toward the Palestinians would influence Obama’s approach to Iran. In effect he was invoking diplomatic blackmail against Israel.

He demanded Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and threatened to expose a 40 year old confidential understanding between Israel and the US about its Dimona nuclear facility if Israel didn’t sign the NNPT. Israel did not. Obama retaliated by interrupting routine travel of Israeli nuclear scientists between the two countries.

In 2010 after seeing a clear pattern of hostility toward Israel, over 50 retired US Generals signed a letter to Obama demanding he stop treating Israel so poorly and treat them like ally they are.

Also in 2010, in an unprecedented move, both houses of Congress having seen the same hostile pattern,  signed letters telling Obama to stop treating Israel so poorly.

Apparently Obama didn’t get the message. The same year he walked out on a White House meeting with Netanyahu, leaving him sitting alone. While Obama had dinner with his wife Michelle Netanyahu was let in and out of a side door to the White House with no diplomatic fanfare.

Subsequent to this Mahmoud Abbas was welcomed with full diplomatic protocol and fanfare.

In 2011 Egypt ousted Hosni Mubarak, a 30 year US ally, replacing him with Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim fundamentalist and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Obama openly supported Morsi. This brought a further chill in US-Israel relations.  A little over a year later the Egyptians voted Morsi out. Obama voiced his opposition to Morsi’s purging. Today, Morsi remains in prison.

In May 2011 while Netanyahu was airborne in route to Washington, to address a joint session of Congress Obama spoke to Congress urging any two state solution should be based on ’67 lines, with mutual land swaps. The timing of Obama’s speech was seen as an effort to sabotage Netanyahu. Following Obama’s speech, in an unprecedented bi-partisan move, Republican and Democratic leaders condemned Obama’s speech and publically distanced themselves from the President.  When Netanyahu delivered his speech to the joint session of Congress he received 30 standing ovations, which was largely seen as a rebuke of President Obama, who along with Vice President Biden and John Kerry, were noticeably absent during Netanyahu’s speech.

In March 2013 in Ramallah Mahmoud Abbas referred to Israel’s 1948 rebirth as “the Nakba,” (the catastrophe), while Obama stood next to him in silence.

During Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 war with Hamas (who has fired over 15,000 rockets into Israel against innocent civilians) Obama threatened to stop US arms supply to Israel.

In 2015 Israel was gearing up for new elections. Jeremy Bird, a democratic strategist who helped the 2012 Obama campaign, was dispatched to Israel in an effort to help defeat Netanyahu. This brought harsh criticism of Obama for what was seen as a direct effort to influence Israeli elections. In the end the effort failed as Netanyahu was re-elected. Today he has become the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history.

Finally, in what was called by many as the single most damaging decision Obama made is the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. No other move has caused greater concern for Israel’s security than this agreement. While there remains robust disagreement on the deal’s justification, there is little doubt Israel has the most to lose.

To be fair to Obama, there has been an occasional bright spot. For example the US did award Israel a $38 billion 10 year defense package, which is the largest ever. Yet,  it does part from previous such packages in that by year three 100% of the funds must be spent in the US. Prior agreements allowed Israel to award up to 24% of the funds to their own defense contractors.  The absence of this option will have a severe impact on small – medium companies and put thousands of Israeli’s out of work.

There are numerous other examples of how the Obama administration has been a blight on relations with the strongest ally the US has in the Middle East, however I believe the short list contained herein constitutes more than enough facts to render Kerry’s words about the Obama Administration commitment to Israel’s security little more than what they are- mere words, with little or no facts to corroborate them. The reality shows the Obama administration has been one of, if not the most hostile ever toward Israel.

Meanwhile 4 more Israeli’s were just murdered in the ongoing wave of Palestinian terrorism which began in October, 2015. To date President Obama has not held Palestinian leadership accountable for a single Israeli death.

As the old saying goes, with “friends” like this…..

President Obama, your legacy has been secured. Time for an actual friend of Israel to take over…..

Israel’s Azerbaijan Problem


Israeli Russian Jewish blogger, Alexander Lapshin did something brave, he crossed over from Azerbaijan to Artsakh aka Nagorno Karabagh and came out speaking for Artsakh’s Independence which automatically steps on Azeri toes.  The Azeri’s were furious and wanted him arrested and extradited.  In spite of the democratic façade, Azerbaijan is an oppressive regime and this is proof positive of that.

He is sitting now in a Belarus jail waiting for the next step.  From what I understand Israel has intervened and he will not be extradited to Azerbaijan.  This blogger has been saved from sure torture and probable death if he ended up in Azeri hands.  

We must show our support and let our voices be heard for Alex Lapshin.  He must be released.  There is no crime in speaking the truth.


This past December Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev met in Azerbaijan to have discussions.  Soon after we read the following headline in the news: Azerbaijan wants to purchase Iron Dome technology.  Next day, it was a done deal.  

When I read this headline, I asked myself do they realize the potential consequences of this deal?  I marveled over this agreement for quite some time and concluded either Israel is extremely naive and careless or the political analysts don’t see beyond their noses.  

  1. This Technology is defensive but can embolden this regime
    1. Can you guarantee the Iron Dome technology will not facilitate a war with Artsakh?
  1. This Technology will be in Shiite hands.
    1. Can you guarantee it won’t get in other Shiite hands?

In my strong outcry and numerous commentaries, I was reminded by members of the group, Israeli Armenian Solidarity, ‘Keren, it’s a defensive technology so you have nothing to worry about.’  

I recall reading a couple of years ago after Operation Protective Edge, the UN told Israel to give Hamas ID Technology.  I remember scratching my head when I read that, smirking at the absurdity.  Why would Israel do that?  Let Hamas not start wars and no one will need IDT.  

So I came up with my follow up question. “Why doesn’t Israel sell this defense technology to Hamas?”

Don’t jump out of your seat!  I know why.  But can the reader start to empathize now why it’s a bad idea for Azerbaijan to buy this technology?  Let me try to answer, but first let me give a little background.

We, who follow Middle East politics, know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but is the public know about the Azerbaijan-Nagorno Karabagh conflict?  

Let me explain it in a quick nutshell.  Back in 1920’s about the same time Palestine was being discussed, the Caucus region was also discussed for drawing out borders.  Stalin promised to give us, the Armenians our historic lands of Artskah aka Nagorno Karabagh and more to us.  What did he do?  Definitely not as he promised. Stalin divided up the lands in another way.  He gave OUR historical lands to Azerbaijan.  

Source: Wikipedia

There was bloodshed over the years including pogroms against Armenians who were living in Baku, reminiscent of the Hebron Massacre.   

In 1991 when Armenia became independent of the Soviet Union about the same time we claimed Artsakh to be ours.  At that point the Armenian population was very high. Today it’s one hundred percent and Azerbaijan does not want to let go of our lands.  Hence our conflict.

Relevant Parallels:

  1. The same way parts of Israel have been given to this false owners who dub themselves Palestinians, this territory land was given to Azerbaijan.
  2. The ‘Palestinians’ or Hamas attack and break ceasefires – Azerbaijan the same.  (We are in a ceasefire mode as I write today).  Nearly every day Azerbaijan breaks the ceasefire, it is just too tempting from their high ground vantage point.
  3. Muslim aggressors (Hamas and cronies) against Jews & in our case: Muslim aggressors against Christians.  

As a side note but one that can not be neglected, there are many other parallels the most notable being: the Armenian and Jewish holocausts.  Both of our peoples went through attempted annihilation.  The Armenian Genocide in WWI and the Jewish Holocaust in WWII.  

With that setting in mind, let’s go back in time a little – just a little.  Last year in April 2016, Azerbaijan received a shipment of Israeli drones – THE VERY NEXT DAY, they started war with Nagorno Karabagh.  The drones were used in kamikaze style and against the Geneva Convention laws. They killed civilians with these drones.  Azerbaijan also committed war crimes by the horrendous murders and mutilations (including decapitations) Nagorno Karabagh soldiers.  This is what I call the Hamas of the Caucuses.

Now fast forward to today, Azerbaijan wants the Iron Dome technology.  Is an attack from Iran imminent? No.  Azerbaijan will start a war with Armenians in Artsakh.  

They want to finish the Armenian Genocide that their big sister, Turkey started a century ago.  Israel I beseech you, Bibi and Likud, I beseech you to not sell Iron Dome technology to Azerbaijan. They will start a war with us.

Don’t be naive or careless.  Rethink your analysis.  You have been informed and God is awake and never slumbering.  If Israel is to be a light to the nations as you are to be then stop being scared of saying no.  Trying to wash your proverbial hands will not wash away the stains.  




[watch] Mike Huckabee Receives Award for his Defense of Jerusalem

Israel Rising was privileged to be invited to an intimate gathering with Mike Huckabee and the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce.  Mike Huckabee has been one of the most outspoken friends of the Jewish people and Israel. With this being 50 years since the liberation of Jerusalem, 100 years after the Balfour Declaration, and 150 years since the visit of Mark Twain to jerusalem, it was fitting for the award to be given in the very place where Mark Twain stayed on his journey to the Holy Land.  It was this trip and the travel log “Innocents Abroad” that launched Twain’s career.



Former PM: “Australia should cut its aid to the Palestinian Authority”

Former Australian PM Tony Abbott, a staunch ally of Israel broke ranks with current Australian Prime Minister when he sugggested that Australia should move its embassy to Jerusalem.

“Another way for Australia to demonstrate its unswerving support for Israel, as the Middle East’s only liberal, pluralist democracy, might be to join any move by the Trump administration to move its embassy to Jerusalem.”

-Tony Abbott

Abbott also pushed for Australia to cut its “$40 million a year in aid to the Palestinian Authority while it keeps paying pensions to terrorists and their families.”

The Spectator Article, where Abbott wrote his views of how Australia should navigate the Middle East gave explicit and clear support to Israel while castigating the failed 2-State policy global elites have been forcing on Israel.


As the backlash grows against UNSC Resolution 2334  more and more politicians and leaders are beginning to voice their opposition to the UN’s singling out of Israel.  Abbott represents the wide populace in Australia, New Zealand, and North America that overwhelmingly support Israel and yet represented by governments who are often antagonistic against the only Jewish State.


Hindu Temples To Hebrew Lamps: Thoughts On Hanukkah By A Hindutvaite

It is a Hindu temple run by a Telugu community in San Francisco.

Hindu temple in San Fransisco
Hindu temple in San Fransisco

Two things strike me.

In many places, the temple administration has put out posters – ‘as per city requirement’ – asking the devotees to vacate temple premises and all halls by 8pm. I ask my host and dear friend Thirumalairajan about this notice.

The Christian neighbourhood found the temple and its activities a disturbance, and even now try to curb their activities, he says.

Even bringing a temple here was tough, with all kinds of objections being raised, explains Sundaresh, another longtime friend accompanying me.

Then, Thirumalairajan says gently, invoking suspense, “Wait till you see who had laid the foundation stone for the art hall of this temple.”

The marble slab stone says that the ground-breaking ceremony was performed by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan on 15 September 1985.

The next day, I stand before a closed building, Berkeley Vedanta Center. I had always longed to visit this centre, and had read previously about how the centre here had come to be.

Marie Louise Burke (Sister Gargi) in her detailed biography about Swami Ashokananda, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, had explained the stiff opposition Berkeley Vedanta Center had faced from the local population.

In 1938, Vedanta Society had obtained approval from the Berkeley Planning Commission for buying and remodelling a house. However, objections began to be raised soon thereafter. A wealthy and influential real estate businessman, Sherman, spearheaded the campaign against the ‘diabolic intrusion of a Hindu church upon the town of Berkeley’.

In May 1938, Berkeley City Council withdrew its affirmation and asked the planning commission for further investigation.

At the hearing, there were only five speakers in favour of the centre. The opposition consisted mainly of influential property owners and wealthy businessmen who were religiously and racially opposed to India.

After two hours of deliberation, the commission found nothing detrimental in the proposal, but referred it back to the city council.

The main drama unfolded on 20 June at 7:30pm in a packed, emotionally-charged hall. Missionary misinterpretations of Hinduism meant that Vedanta Society lost. They had to be content with the knowledge that they had the support of 437 citizens of Berkeley. Undaunted, they strived and looked for a new location and, again, fought battles in the city council sessions.

One of the supporters of the centre, Mrs Martin, recorded in her diary that the attorney for the opponents ‘made pornographic insinuations during the meeting …and …put forth the immorality charges against the Vedanta Society and Hinduism in general’.

During the session, the opponents ‘read out at length and in scandalized tones Sri Krishna’s life with the Gopis’. A principal of a girls’ school ‘circulated a story that there was a ship in the harbor to take young girls to India to be sold into slavery.’

It took a tremendous amount of courage, persistent effort and ceaseless clearing of the cobwebs of colonial missionary lies to win the case at last.

The Vedanta Center at Berkeley was opened for the first time on 22 October 1939. In the same state of California, 66 years after the founding pioneers of the centre faced accusations and insinuations, Hindu parents in 2005 would face similar accusations and insinuations – this time in the California textbook society case. Hindu students and parents would testify to mostly non-Hindu and significantly unsympathetic authorities, clearing the same cobwebs of propaganda against their culture and religion.

With the Berkeley Vedanta Center closed, my friend Sundaresh says that we should visit the museum at the Mission Center at San José.


San José Mission museum was established by missionaries who accompanied the Spanish military. The Christianising mission of the missionaries went hand in hand with the colonisation of the land where once the Native American tribes lived.

Sundaresh picks a book from the museum book shop and hands it over to me. He says he has already read it, and recommends it to me. The book titled Life in a California Mission is actually the journals of Jean Francois de la Perouse, a French man.

I flip through the pages of the book. It details the way the local Native American tribes were treated inside the mission. He calls the mission’s evangelical enterprise resembling a ‘slave plantation’.

When the Spanish arrived 225 years ago, there were aborigines who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, now known to anthropologists as Ohione.

Back then they organised themselves into small independent communities. At least fifty such communities were flourishing. They had musical instruments. They danced to their Deities in an altered state of consciousness. An exhibit showed body pigments which they used to apply on their bodies or to their sacred objects with water. I would have said it is the holy ash and vermilion that one finds by the side of every roadside Hindu altar.

We walk inside to look at the exhibits. But this book helps one decode the exhibits like the Hadith helps one understand Quranic verses. For example, the exhibit says almost benignly that ‘once baptized, the Indians could no longer leave the mission community without permission since the Fathers viewed baptism as a spiritual commitment to change from the old ways.’

However, the journal of La Perouse gives an entirely different picture:

… the moment an Indian in baptized the effect is is the same as if he had pronounced a vow for life. If he escapes to reside with his relations in the independent villages, he is summoned three times to return; if he refuses, the missionaries apply to the governor, who sends soldiers to seize him in the midst of his family and conduct him to the mission, where he is condemned to receive a certain number of lashes with the whip.

The hopes of these Native Americans were raised with gifts from Spain, and then they were trapped through baptism and their old ways destroyed. No wonder the missionaries called these Spanish goods ‘bait and means of spiritual fishing’.

The converted ‘Indians’ kept within the mission compounds had to labour. Their women produced food for the mission. The men cultivated the land and took care of the cattle, effectively becoming cowboys of the mission.

Murals in the exhibition show a peaceful, serene co-existence. I look at the calm faces of native women who are shown preparing meals.

And I read this from the ‘journals of La Perouse’:

Women are never whipped in public, but in an enclosed and somewhat distant place that their cries may not excite a too lively compassion, which might cause men to revolt. The latter, on the contrary, are exposed to the view of all their fellow citizens that their punishment may serve as an example.

The Guardian article on the proposed canonisation of Junípero Serra, the mission founder, provides even a darker dimension to the way Native American women were treated inside the walls of the mission:

When Native American women were caught trying to abort babies conceived through rape, the mission fathers had them beaten for days on end, clamped them in irons, had their heads shaved and forced them to stand at the church altar every Sunday carrying a painted wooden child in their arms.

Even in the exhibition reading through the texts, one can discern the horrors of the mission’s history neatly concealed. An exhibit says, Mission mayordomo Jose Maria Amador described an Indian named Formo, who was punished for coming to Mission San Jose to “conduct dances and diabolical undertakings for our Indians”.

I can picture that shaman who considered his own spirituality in no way inferior to the spiritual claims of the missionaries and came in a spirit of sharing and mutual respect. Seldom would he know that the God of the missionaries was the God of inquisition who commands burning at stake the pagans and infidels.

Another exhibit informs tangentially that measles killed the natives and reduced their population strongly. However, the exhibit which talks about the measles epidemic and decimation of Native Americans practically jailed inside the mission, actually glorifies Father Narciso Duran, who defended ‘the mission system with great eloquence.’

Another exhibit unintendedly reveals something horrible. The general inventory of St Joseph’s Church (1850) in the mission includes “1 more (cross) with no staff of varnished, with a crucifix of gilt metal in half-relief, for (funerals of) the deceased infants.’ No prize for guessing which infants’ deaths needed such regular supply of crucifixes of gilt that the exhibit speaks with no remorse or guilt.

An exhibit merely informs me that the mission at its peak extended itself over thousands of acres. And that is not providential, as missionaries would love for us to believe. In his exhaustive introduction to the journals, author Malcolm Margolin points out that “the severing of the Indians’ linkage to the land was not just an accidental byproduct of missionary activity; it was consciously done, part of the missionary policy of ‘civilizing’ the Indians.”

“Civilizing the Indian can only be achieved by denaturalizing them,” said Fermín Lasuén, another prominent missionary at the mission. That Lasuén belonged to the Franciscan order is an interesting paradox for Hindus like me who love to eulogise St Francis of Assisi as a Christian saint with ecological sensibility. However, the point is that such ‘denaturalizing’ of Native Americans at once provided the mission with slave labour and vast land resources.

The entire exhibition is an exercise in presenting a sanitised version of a system that could definitely be called the prototype of Auschwitz.

As I come out, there stands majestically the statue of a monk with fierce merciless eyes. Under the statue is the name Fray Junípero Serra.


The Museum of Jewish Heritage at New York had its second floor closed on the day of my visit. There was, however, an exhibition running ‘Seeking Justice: Leo Frank Case revisited’. The exhibition is about how race tensions, social dynamics and an ever-present anti-Semitism, all came together in the sensational murder case of 13-year-old Mary Phagan in Georgia in 1913.

After the court verdict found Leo Frank, superintendent of the factory and a Jew, guilty of the murder of the girl, a mob lynched him to death after abducting him from the jail. Decades later in 1982, it was found that Leo Frank was not guilty. The exhibition shows how a section of the media used terms such as ‘big money’ to refer to Jews who were accused of trying to help free Leo Frank.

The Jewish Heritage centre has lessons for Hindus in the United States and elsewhere. When I saw the multimedia panel showing the various sections of the Jews, the orthodoxy, reform school, Zionist socialists, secular humanists and Zionists, I understand how to manage the differences among Hindus even as Hindu activism works for all Hindus irrespective of his or her political stand, even if they are diametrically opposite to Hindutva.

Another panel that strikes me is the commitment of Jews to justice. One finds them supporting the suffering people in Africa, and also at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the US.

The Leo Frank event shocked the Jews in the US and sensitised them to the dormant anti-semitism lurking in the American psyche. It also resulted in the launch of Anti-Defamation League that fights against not only anti-semitism but also all forms of prejudices and hatred.

As victims of centuries of hatred and prejudice, Jews have often found themselves at the forefront in fighting for the justice of other persecuted communities in the world.

Days later, I stand before the gates of Temple Ohabei Shalom in Boston along with Ravi Shankar, the editor of a famous Tamil literary webzine It is a reform Jewish temple.

Here I see another notice in front of the temple door. I now understand why Prof Nathan Katz spoke of the significance of Israel – ‘when push comes to shove, Jews will always have Israel to look at, and that is the significance of Israel’.

A smiling face opens the door and lets us in. Bill McCarthy, who is the executive director at the temple (also adjunct Professor of Mathematics at Wentworth Institute of Technology) kindly takes us to the main temple. He is eager to see us two Hindus enthusiastic about the Jewish temple. Having returned to Judaism, he may not be completely at ease with the orthodoxy, but that does not make him hate the orthodoxy. He has preferred the reform synagogue, which is much closer to his spiritual nurture.

For me, that is another lesson learnt, despite my own tradition celebrating diversity, I have had prejudices against orthodoxy in my tradition.

I marvel at the wonderful stained glass art work around the synagogue and ask him about it. He explains. Particularly striking is one panel. It relates to what is known in Jewish history as the Maccabean Revolt. When Antiochus IV tried to impose his own religion on Jews and defiled the Temple of Jerusalem, Jews started a guerrilla war on the occupying forces and, after years, they freed Jerusalem.

The temple was then in ruins. When they started cleaning up, they found a small cruse of oil. Though the oil was in little quantity, it was miraculously lighting up the lamp for eight days. It was only after they prepared fresh oil that the lamp went out. Today, this is celebrated as Hanukkah – the Jewish celebration of light.

The panel shows the oil lamp as well as the Maccabean fighter. McCarthy explains that it shows both the aspects – the light – the Divine Grace and also the valour – the brave faithful fighter, and both are complementary.

I recall a very similar event in the history of Madurai. It was only after the Vijayanagar Empire repulsed the Islamist advances and secured the Tamil land from further Islamist invasions that the temples were re-opened. After 48 years, when the temple of the Goddess which was camouflaged from desecration by a stone wall was reopened, they found the oil lamp still burning, giving out light miraculously.

Whether it is the temple of Jerusalem in the first century BCE or the temple of the Goddess in Madurai in medieval times, the lamp that glows through the dark times of expansionist monocultural oppressions is the lamp of human divinity and diversity.

Whether it is the anti-Semitic persecutions that Jews faced as in Leo Frank’s case, the genocidal wrath of missionaries which the Native Americans faced, the anti-Hindu hate prejudice which the Hindus faced at Berkeley, or which the Hindu parents face today in the California textbook case; through all these dark, shameful phases of human prejudice, the lamp still burns brightly and gives light.

It is this light that unites the lamp of the fish-eyed Goddess and the oil lamp of Jerusalem across space, time and cultures.

Originally published in Swarajiya.


[watch] Bibi Netanyahu: We Made Breakthroughs with Two Islamic Countries Last Week

Bibi Netanyahu touched on the following two points in his weekly cabinet address:

  • The Amona agreement (video was recorded before the agreement was accepted by the community)
  • His trip to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan last week

On the second point, the Prime Minister points out that both Islamic countries desire a real relationship with Israel and admire the Jewish people. The visits were breakthroughs in building serious partnerships emerging countries that have real economic potential and a desire to reach out as representatives of an emerging moderate Islam originating in central Asia. Israel already imports 40% of its oil from Azerbajan and has growing defense contracts with the small country that borders Iran and Armenia.


A Trumpian Israeli Initiative

US President-elect Donald Trump won’t even take office for another month, but he has already killed the status quo.

During the election, Trump trounced the untouchable consensus on NATO’s post-Cold War purpose. Questioning the purpose of an alliance formed to fight a war that ended 25 years ago is indisputably a reasonable thing to do. But until Trump came around, no one did.

Since November 7, Trump has continue to reject accepted wisdom. For 44 years no US president would speak with the president of Taiwan. And then President-elect Trump took a call from Taiwan’s President-elect Tsai Ing-wen.

It’s not clear where Trump stands on either NATO or Taiwan. But it is eminently apparent that by ignoring protocol, Trump expanded his maneuver room in his dealings with NATO and China.

Then of course, there is Jerusalem. Since 1948 the US has refused to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – or even as part of Israel. This policy of non-recognition – embodied by the US refusal to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem – has been maintained by a bipartisan consensus despite the fact that for the past 20 years, US law has required the State Department to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy to Jerusalem.

When Trump promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, his words were greeted with cynicism.

But then this week his senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said Trump is serious about moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

In one fell swoop, the 68 year old consensus is gone.

35 years ago, on December 14, 1981, Israel took a Trump-like step. Israel took a wrecking ball to received wisdom.

That day, the Knesset passed the Golan Heights Law. Then prime minister Menachem Begin decided on the initiative the day before. In less than 24 hours, the law when from an idea in Begin’s head into the law books.

The Golan Heights law cancelled the Military Government and Civil Administration that had governed the area since 1967 and replaced them with Israeli law and administration.

The Reagan administration was livid. Begin had neither asked Ronald Reagan for permission nor given Reagan a head’s-up on what he was about to do.

Begin was clearly operating on the basis of the “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission” protocol.

In the event, the Americans weren’t really mad.

Reagan prevented the UN Security Council from sanctioning Israel for its action.

The Syrian regime did nothing. The Arab world yawned.

Israel was spared international condemnation in large part because of the way Begin explained the purpose of the law.

The day before the Knesset passed Begin’s law, the Syrian regime announced it would prefer to fight Israel for 100 years than live at peace with it. That statement, like hundreds of similar ones over the 13 years since Israel took over the strategic plateau reinforced yet again, the basic truth that Israel would be responsible for the Golan Heights for a long, long time.

After the law was passed, Begin and his advisors insisted its purpose was administrative. Israel couldn’t wait for a hundred years to register births and deaths and marriages, they explained. The Syrian legal code, through which the Military Government administered the areas was unsuited to a modern democracy. There was no way to protect the rights of Golan residents so long as Syrian law was the law of the land.

Begin and his advisors explained over and over that the application of Israeli law would have no impact on Israel’s willingness to make territorial concessions to Syria on the Golan in the event that the regime had a change in heart. And indeed, from 1992 until the war in Syria began in 2011, every Israeli government expressed willingness to discuss the future of the Golan Heights with the Syrians.

Aside from safeguarding the civil rights and legal protections of the Israeli citizens and permanent residents in the Golan, the law also defused the issue as a political cause inside of Israel. Everyone could accept the law. Those who wished to conclude a land-for-peace deal with Syria could support the law. Those who wished to retain perpetual Israeli control could live with it.

To safeguard against irresponsible concessions the Knesset passed the referendum law that requires a two thirds Knesset majority to approve territorial compromise on the Golan.

By transferring administrative responsibilities from the military to the government, Israel freed its armed forces to concentrate on their primary mission – defending the country from its enemies.

When Begin passed the Golan Heights Law, he had already learned its basic lesson: When Israel speaks modestly about its objectives, it can achieve a lot more than when it bloviates about them.

Begin learned that lesson a year and a half earlier when he passed Basic Law: Jerusalem. Unlike the Golan Heights Law which changed the situation on the ground, Basic Law: Jerusalem, which announced that Israel’s capital is united Jerusalem, merely described reality. United Jerusalem had been Israel’s capital since immediately after the Six Day War. Weeks after the war the government united the city by expanding its municipal borders to include the neighborhoods that had been under Jordanian occupation since 1949.

Basic Law: Jerusalem was a bit of chest beating. But the beating reverberated like drums of war in the West. And the US responded by enabling the Security Council to pass Resolution 478. Whereas in 1981 the US blocked the Security Council from passing sanctions against Israel for the Golan Heights law, in 1980 it enabled sanctions to be incorporated into the condemnatory resolution.

478 enjoined member states that had embassies in Jerusalem to remove them. Within weeks, 11 of the 13 states that had embassies in Jerusalem had shut them down. The last two were closed in 2006.

The Golan Heights Law’s 35th anniversary was celebrated Wednesday evening at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. There, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and former cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser said Israel must lobby Trump to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

While reasonable on their face, their calls ignore the basic lessons of the Golan Heights law, and seem to misread or ignore Trump’s modus operandi.

Trump cares about what works, not what looks good.

He isn’t interested in moving the US embassy to Jerusalem because he cares about recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem or over anything else for that matter. If Trump moves the embassy he will do so to advance America’s interests.

In one fell swoop, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem will correct a great deal of the damage that eight years of President Barack Obama’s foreign policies have caused to US credibility worldwide.

There is no single step the US can take that will do more to rebuild US credibility as an ally than moving the embassy to Jerusalem. By taking the step that none of his predecessors would take to stand in support of the US’s most embattled ally worldwide, Trump will show that America can again be trusted. And moving the embassy will accomplish this goal without placing one US soldier at risk, and will cost US taxpayers no more than a few million dollars for construction and moving fees.

On a basic level, from Israel’s perspective, what distinguishes Trump from his predecessors is that he has signaled that he views Israel as an ally whereas his predecessors viewed the Jewish state as a burden.

Trump wants and expects wants Israel to be a credible ally. To achieve this, Israel has some status quo icons of its own to shatter. And the Golan Heights Law provides just the roadmap for action.

Begin wasn’t bluffing when he said that the Military Government lacked the legal tools to protect and uphold the rights of the residents of the Golan Heights. In Judea and Samaria, the situation today has similarly reached a critical moment. And whereas Begin cancelled the military government on the Golan when a mere 6,000 Israelis were living there, today 450,000 Israelis live under military administration in Judea and Samaria.

The Israelis in Judea and Samaria all in live what is referred to as Area C. When the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 it took over governing authority from the Military Government in Areas A and B – the Palestinian population centers.

A mere 100,000 Palestinians live in Area C.

The Military Government administers on the basis of the Jordanian legal code, which has been revised over the past 49 years by various military administrative orders.

As the human drama taking place in the community of Amona makes clear, the existing legal system is incapable of protecting the civil and legal rights of either the Israelis or the Palestinians living under it.

In Amona 40 Israeli families are about to be thrown out of their homes because Jordanian law doesn’t allow Jews to easily purchase land from Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority has made selling land to Jews a capital offense. Israelis in Area C cannot properly adjudicate their legal rights to land in Israeli courts.

As was the case with Syria in 1981, the Palestinian leadership – from the PLO to Hamas – has made clear that it has no interest in making peace with Israel. Palestinian intransigence has brought about a 16 year stalemate in the so-called peace process which has convinced even true believers on the Israeli Left that the time has come to put aside the two-state paradigm.

The latest person to come on board was novelist and leftist ideologue A.B. Yehoshua. Earlier this month Yehoshua told an astonished audience in Jerusalem that the two-state solution is impossible. Yehoshua then endorsed the plan to apply Israeli law to Area C and grant full civil rights to the Palestinians living in the area.

Trump’s rejection of the status quo and his respectful view of Israel gives our leaders the opportunity to join Yehoshua in rejecting the failed “two-state solution” status quo and act on the growing consensus on the Left and Right that the time has come to apply Israeli law to Area C.

True, to a degree even greater than in the Golan Heights, Israel has the legal and historic right to full sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria. But it is equally true that most Israelis would be willing to negotiate the permanent status of Judea and Samaria with a credible, sincere Palestinian neighbor.

By simply applying its law to the area as an administrative step, Israel keeps all options on the table while securing the civil, legal and human rights of both the Palestinians and the Israelis who live in the area.

Rejecting received wisdom is far less risky than maintaining allegiance to it when it is wrong. Trump obviously recognizes this. The time has come for Israel to recognize it as well.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post. 


Israeli Company Moebius Medical Signs Deal With India’s Sun Pharma

Moebius Medical

Moebius Medical based in Israel has signed an exclusive global licensing deal with India’s Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.  The deal  involves the development of MM-II, a novel pharmaceutical candidate geared for the treatment of pain in osteoarthritis. According to Israel21C “MM-II is a non-opioid product that leverages the physical properties of proprietary liposomes to lubricate arthritic knee joints, to reduce friction and wear, and pain in the joints.”

Moebius Medical CEO Moshe Weinstein said, “The fact that our novel technology was conceived in Israel and developed within the RAD Biomed Accelerator, confirms the unique quality of the country’s biotechnology ecosystem. In fact, our technology was borne from the multidisciplinary cooperation between leading professors from three of Israel’s most prestigious research institutions: Prof. Yechezkel Barenholz of the Hebrew University, Prof. Izhak Etsion of the Technion Institute, and Prof. Dorit Nitzan of Hadassah Medical Center. I would especially like to thank Prof. Barenholz for his ongoing support of the company, together with Dr. Yaniv Dolev, whose vision and leadership in the company helped bring this partnership to fruition.”

MM-II is an intra-articular biolubricant injection.  The product is being developed to provide symptomatic relief of mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis pain. MM-II is based on patent-protected technology licensed by Moebius Medical from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Hadassah Medical Center.

Sun Pharma Global Head of Business Development Kirti Ganorkar said, “Our agreement with Moebius Medical for an osteoarthritis product is a part of our effort to build a branded product pipeline and enrich our global portfolio for pain products. We are encouraged to further develop MM-II and hope to bring a new innovative treatment to patients suffering from osteoarthritic pain.”

The agreement stipulates that Sun Pharma will fund further development of MM-II, and undertake its global commercialization. Moebius Medical has already completed a first-in-man clinical study at Hadassah Medical Center. The trial demonstrated the product’s quick action and potentially better results and relative safety for alleviating osteoarthritis pain as compared to Hyaluronic Acid injection.

Moebius Medical will conduct the requisite pre-clinical studies, and will be responsible for product development and manufacturing until the end of Phase-II studies. Mumbai based Sun Pharma will assume responsibility for further clinical studies, regulatory submissions and product commercialization.


Is the F-35 Deal a Dud for Israel?

Despite the fanfare put on by the Israeli government upon the delivery of the first F-35s this past week, the plane itself may not be the deal the Israeli cabinet made it out to be. Since the beginning of the plan’s production in 2001. In the most extreme, critics call it the “million-dollar disaster,” while more moderate views claim it is over-hyped and far too expensive.

Below are some statements from notable industry experts:

“Even before the downgrades, some analysts questioned the F-35′s ability to defeat newer Sukhoi and Shenyang jets.”

-David Axe, military correspondent.

“It’s as if Detroit suddenly put out a car with lighter fluid in the radiator and gasoline in the hydraulic brake lines: That’s how unsafe this plane is…”

-Pierre Spray

In a report by POGO, a government oversight committee, Winslow Wheeler Director (2002-2014), Straus Military Reform quoted various pilots about the F-35:

There are additional problems for detecting threats in the all-important visual mode: the ejection seat headrest and canopy “bow” (where the canopy meets the fuselage) are designed in such a way as to impede seeing aircraft to the rear: one pilot commented “A pilot will find it nearly impossible to check [their six o’clock position{to the rear}] under g.” Another commented, “The head rest is too large and will impede aft visibility and survivability during surface and air engagements,” and “Aft visibility will get the pilot gunned [down] every time,” referring to close-range combat. (p. 18.)

Indeed, DOT&E stated explicitly “The out-of-cockpit visibility in the F-35 is less than other Air Force fighter aircraft.” (p. 17.)

To summarize in different words, the helmet-mounted display and the F-35 system does not present an enhanced, clearer view of the outside world, targets and threats to the pilot; instead, they present a distorted and/or obstructed view.  This is one of the most serious backward steps that the entire F-35 system takes, and it presents an even greater threat to the survivability of the F-35 and its pilot than the astounding evidence of the flammability of the F-35 (all versions) in the recent analysis of another DOT&E report by military analyst Lee Gaillard at Counterpunch.

In the event of the pilot needing to escape from the aircraft, there are also some incompletely explained problems with the ejection seat in “off-normal” situations, i.e. those that can occur in combat or even real training. (p. 43.)

If this plane is so bad, then why did the Israeli government go for the deal?  One word: IRAN. Everyone agrees the F-35 is expensive, but except for its most extreme detractors, most would also agree it has one redeeming quality, excellent stealth capabilities. Given the fact that its slower speeds are specifically built for precision attacks on multiple targets, it is not a surprise that Israel Air force Industries and the government toook a chance on the F-35 as long they would be able to override the American computer codes and enhance them.

The MiGFlug Blog says the following:

The F-35 is not mainly built for high speeds, it is built as an attack aircraft (as well), like the A-10 Thunderbolt II and therefore needs low speeds to be able to shoot at the enemy on the ground for longer times before passing it. The radar cross section is one of the world’s smallest even in a clean loadout, not to mention when the others start loading weapons on their wings which further increases the radar cross section of them compared to the F-35. It does not have the best dog fight capabilities due to its big size (Sprey calls it “fat”) and the big engine fan behind the cockpit which limits the sight backwards, but modern air-to-air battles are supposed to be mainly BVR (beyond visual range) engagements which means that all fighters will depend on their radar- and IR missiles rather than they depend on their dogfighting skills.

With Bibi’s visit to Azerbaijan, the F-35 fits tightly into Israel’s potential Iran attack strategy if Trump tears up the nuclear accords upon entering office. It may have been a pork barrel project in terms of the American tax payer and not live up to industry hype, but if used correctly by Israel it may be the the right kind of tool to be used to knock out Iran’s nuclear program.